GUIGNAS, MICHEL, Jesuit, missionary, professor of hydrography; b. 12 Jan. 1681 at Condom (dept. of Gers), France; d. 6 Feb. 1752 in Quebec.
Michel Guignas entered the noviciate of the Jesuits of the province of Aquitaine in Bordeaux, France, on 9 Dec. 1702 after having studied philosophy for two years. When his two noviciate years were completed, and after a year of literary studies, he taught in turn grammar, classics, and rhetoric classes at the Jesuit college in Pau from 1705 to 1710 and subsequently studied philosophy and theology in Poitiers. He left France for Canada in June 1716. He probably spent several months at the Saint-François-Xavier mission near Bécancour before leaving the St Lawrence valley for his first stay of five years in the western missions, particularly among the Ottawas. On 2 Feb. 1718, in the church of the Saint-Ignace mission at Michilimackinac, he took his four perpetual vows between the hands of Father Joseph-Jacques Marest*. In 1720 and 1721 he was a missionary at Saint-Joseph (near St Joseph, Mich.). He returned to Quebec in 1722 to replace Father Pierre de Lauzon as professor of hydrography at the college of Quebec [see Joseph Des Landes].
After four years of teaching Guignas went once more to the western missions. He asked to be allowed to take part, along with Father Nicolas Degonnor, in the expedition to the Sioux country commanded by René Boucher de La Perrière; he left Montreal on 16 June 1727. At the beginning of 1728, however, illness forced Boucher to leave Fort Beauharnois, which he had just built on Lake Pepin (Wis.-Minn.). His nephew Pierre Boucher de Boucherville succeeded him. In September Boucher de Boucherville left the fort and Guignas accompanied him. During the return voyage, on 16 Oct. 1728, they were captured by the Kickapoos and Mascoutens and held for five months. Thanks to their adoption by a member of one of the tribes, their lives were spared. During the winter of 1729 Guignas went to the Illinois country and lived among the Mascoutens. In 1730 he was back at the Michilimackinac mission, and the following year he accompanied René Godefroy de Linctot, the newly appointed commandant in the Sioux country. There was then no news of the Jesuit until 1735, when it was learned that he was still alive.
In 1737 Guignas left the Sioux missions and went to Michilimackinac, and from there to Quebec in 1738. He exercised his ministry in the Saguenay region until 1740; then he retired to Quebec and died there on 6 Feb. 1752.
Father Guignas, a Gascon, was of a zealous and jovial disposition and possessed a quick and open mind; he was robust, original, at times eccentric in his manners and in expressing his opinions. He liked to suggest, for example, that after all there was some good in brandy, which he called jokingly “the radical humour.”
ASJCF, 528; 608; Fonds Rochemonteix, 4012, 1; 4017, 304–16; 4018, 117, 123, 126, 133, 149, 161. ASJ, France (Chantilly), Liste des pères et des frères jésuites. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), VI, 577–79. “Lettres du père Aulneau,” APQ Rapport, 1926–27, 269, 278, 281, 285, 286. Melançon, Liste des missionnaires jésuites. Charland, Les Abénakis d’Odanak, 42. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIe siècle, I, 204–31; Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIe siècle, I, 180–202, 447–63. L.-P. Audet, “Hydrographes du roi et cours d’hydrographie au collège de Québec, 1671–1759,” Cahiers des Dix, XXXV (1970), 13–37.